On April 9th at 10:10AM in Kepner Hall Rm. 1030, UNC alumnus Brandon Barnholt (BS-81) will deliver a presentation to students in the Monfort College of Business. President and CEO of KeHE Distributors, LLC—the second largest distributor in the natural products industry—Mr. Barnholt will be joined by Director of Talent Management Rusty Bland to discuss the intersections between job opportunity and corporate culture.
Since earning his degree in finance and economics from UNC, Barnholt has maintained close ties to the university through a combination of service and philanthropy. In addition to serving as director of the MCB Dean’s Leadership Council and vice chairman of the University of Northern Colorado Foundation, he spearheaded the establishment of the KeHE Distributors Scholarship and Garth Allen Distinguished Chair through corporate and private donations.
“I grew up in Denver and I was able to graduate from UNC thanks in part to funding from state grant programs,” Barnholt says. “I feel a sense of duty to pay it back, pay it forward, and make it possible for others to have the same opportunity that I had.”
Barnholt enrolled at UNC as a recreation major, but quickly made the switch over to business after taking courses in MCB which sparked his passion for finance. His first full-time job following graduation stemmed from a marketing internship at Conoco he had secured with the help of a Northern Colorado alumnus in his senior year. Working his way up over the course of a career spanning more than three decades, Barnholt served 11 years at Conoco before taking on the key leadership roles at Clark Refining & Marketing and White Hen Pantry that led to his current position at KeHE.
“A college degree establishes that initial foundation: gives you a new vocabulary, equips you with important skill sets,” says Barnholt. “Once you’re launched, your professional life continues to be a constant, everyday learning process.”
Barnholt’s presentation will provide an overview of job opportunities at KeHE with an eye toward illustrating the links between a company’s values and employee success. Corporate culture is a point of differentiation for KeHE, an employee-owned company guided by a set of core values which emphasize giving and serving others.
“Corporate culture is something I stress to every business student because job opportunities often entail a significant life commitment,” says Barnholt. “To decide whether or not a position is right for you, it’s essential that you do your research, carefully examine a company’s overall mission, and get a sense of how they’re going to help you to grow as an employee.”
According to Barnholt, it’s UNC’s culture that has made him such a staunch supporter of our institution. The university’s commitment to student persistence and success evidenced through programs like CHE and Cumbres—combined with its established record of serving first generation students—resonate with his idea of “potential” as a long-term resource that deserves to be cultivated.
“Throughout my career, I’ve never been given the number one company in its space or the number one set of assets. I’ve always had to find the promise, develop the opportunity, and then turn it into something that has a lot of value,” Barnholt says. “I think the same can be said of connecting with young people at UNC who have a lot of promise. They just need that big break, a chance to pursue their own development.”
Many thanks to Mr. Barnholt for taking the time to talk to us about his ongoing work with our university.
Have you considered making a gift to support UNC students, but you’re unsure where to begin? Visit our official giving homepage and you’ll find a helpful FAQ, a comprehensive list of our 850+ funds, and even a handy search engine that will give you all the information you need to secure a matching donation from your employer. You can also explore on- and off-campus service opportunities by filling out this Volunteer Interest Form on the alumni website.
Interested in attending future presentations at the Monfort College of Business? You can find a detailed calendar of upcoming speakers on the MCB homepage.